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The Maastricht Diplomat

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Paying the price for the man who forgot the Art of the Deal

It should not be news that the United States has pulled its troops from Syria, leaving the Kurdish forces alone in their fight against President Erdogan and the Turkish military. To be sure, the US was never in conflict with the Turks, but they were the buffer between the two. As, until recently, staunch allies against the very serious threat of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or Daesh to Arabic speakers), the US and the Kurds stood side by side in Northern Syria. Despite their deepest wishes to upscale the thirty year plus conflict with the Kurdistan Workers Party, Turkish forces were never going to go up against the world’s most powerful military.

As calamitous as Donald Trump is, and make no mistake he is a truly terrible and highly dangerous world leader, he is not the first sitting US president or even the first world leader to turn his back on the Kurds. From Ford to Reagan, the US has consistently been inconsistent in their alliances with that particular ethnic minority. The British too have been known the turn their tails when it suits them. This is, sadly, highly reflective of their long-standing foreign policies regarding the Middle East for the past century.

But this particular instance goes even further than just a ‘simple’ betrayal of a highly effective and generally (in the Western World) desired alliance. The number one terrorist group in the world at the moment, the ISIL has been geographically defeated and held captive largely due to the efforts of the Kurd men and women. Specifically, held captive. Massive internment camps, with separations between the men and the women and children, of captured ISIL fighters and their families have been organised and run by the Kurds, despite their distinct lack of a recognised state and extensive funding. While the US never officially took responsibility for them, it is widely known that they have done more than most to help keep them running. That is, until now.

Barely a day had passed between the withdrawal of US forces and the start of Turkish shelling. Another day and ground forces went in. A week has passed, and Turkish forces have now advanced further than their previously stated aim of a 32km ‘safety zone’ recognised in their weakly named Peace Spring offensive. In that time, one ISIL internment camp has suffered riots and escapes. Women and children for now, but how long until male fighters cut loose? Regardless of side choosing in the long-running battle between the Kurds and the Turks, it was widely assumed that all were on the same side as long as ISIL was on the other. Sleeper cells at the ready, with a high chance of escaped fighters returning with a sure vengeance; do not be surprised to see a return of the masked men in black. There is a Kurdish adage that goes: “The Kurds have no friends but the mountains”, and this is proving its worth once more.


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